Law Number 9786 to Combat Plastic Pollution and Protect the Environment which enters into force in six months after its recent publication in the newspaper La Gaceta, seeks a drastic reduction in the consumption of plastic items of a single-use in the country and their subsequent recycling in accordance with the principles of a circular economy.
A circular economy is one where consumer product waste is used as inputs for the production of other goods and services. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to follow the 3R Scheme: 1) Reduce the amount of waste produced; 2) Re-use all the materials we can; and 3) Recycle those wastes whose generation was inevitable.
Therefore, the new Law, which is a necessary tool to deal with the prolonged pollution generated by plastic, contains provisions for the reduction, reuse, and recycling of plastic-based products:
- Reduction of plastic waste generation:
- Prohibition of Plastic Straws: twelve months after the regulation of this law has been issued, the sale or free delivery of single-use plastic straws will be prohibited throughout the national territory. However, straws that are included in the product packaging may continue to be marketed for the next 3 years.
Additionally, it is recognized that the Ministry of Health may make exceptions under technical criteria.
- Prohibition of Plastic Bags: the sale or free delivery of plastic bags in commercial premises is prohibited. This prohibition will take effect after 12 months after the issuance of the regulation.
Plastic bags made to be reused and have a low environmental impact certification issued by the Costa Rican Accreditation Entity are exempted, provided they meet the following characteristics:
|Small: 45 cm wide x 60 cm long and minimum thickness of 0.75 thousandths of an inch||Manufactured with at least 50% reprocessed material.|
||Manufactured with at least 50% reprocessed material.|
Biodegradable bags of any size
- Ecological purchases by the State: From now on public institutions and companies, including municipalities, are prohibited from the purchase of single-use plastic items, among which are plates, glasses, forks, knives, spoons, straws, disposable removers and other items used primarily for food consumption.
These institutions may purchase reusable, recyclable or additive products that reduce the consumption of fossil materials. In addition, there is a possibility that future exceptions will be declared when so defined by the Ministry of Health based on technical criteria or when a state of emergency is declared.
- Duty to encourage reuse: Establishes the duty of commercial establishments to encourage customers to carry purchased items in their own packaging, cloth bags, boxes, and other reusable containers.
- Waste reuse
The ban on the sale or free delivery of plastic products only applies to single-use plastic items, while companies are urged to carry out recovery and reuse programs for the plastic products they market.
Public institutions and companies are authorized to purchase single-use plastic products, provided they are recyclable or have been previously recycled. Twelve months after publication of the law’s regulations anyone who sells plastic bottles or products contained therein must comply with at least one of the following measures detailed below:
- Establish a program for the reuse, recycling, energy use or other means of recovery of waste derived from the products they sell. The implementation parameters of these programs will be defined in future regulations.
- Participate in a program for the integral management of waste that may be organized by sector or by the waste generated.
- In the case of producers, fabricate products or use containers or packaging that, due to their design, manufacturing or use characteristics, minimize the generation of waste and facilitate its recovery, or allow its disposal in the least harmful way to health and the environment.
- Develop strategic alliances with at least one municipality to improve collection and integrated waste management systems.
- Plastic bottles that contain supplies necessary for agricultural production are exempt from these obligations.
All business that sell single-use plastic products must have differentiated containers or receivers to deposit recoverable and non-recoverable plastic waste, and then give them the correct treatment.
Undoubtedly, the new Law to Combat Plastic Pollution and Protect the Environment proposes adjustments in the behavior of all the inhabitants of the country, both consumers and commercial establishments, reminding us that this century promises changes in the way we have been living, and although some of these modifications may be expensive, they are necessary to sustain life as we know it on our planet.